ANIME & MANGA - Review
16:00 - 8th December 2013, by Andrew Osmond

Guilty Crown

This anime's name is a gift to reviewers. It's so tempting to sum the show up just by changing the second word to "Pleasure". Indeed, that's a lot of what these first 11 parts of Guilty Crown are, lifting clichés from a swathe of melodramatic anime actioners, with garnishes of fanservice and huge side-orders of cheese. Two of the most obvious influences are Code Geass and Evangelion. The sly nods to Eva are hilarious if you know the older show, though Guilty Crown is perfectly watchable if you don't.

The impressive thing about Guilty Crown is that, after you've spent the first couple of episodes laughing at the clichés, you realise it's still fun. The basic material is tick-box stuff. "Setting: Near-future Tokyo, after mysterious catastrophe called Lost Christmas." "Withdrawn, passive male student runs across beautiful girl, whose songs appear to be magic." "Girl gives boy the power to draw Voids - spiritual essences - from other people and wield them as weapons." "Boy handles all of that pretty well, but freaks out when the girl starts living in his home." Stir in robot power suits, guerrilla armies, comic classmates and a lingerie-clad mum, who's clearly aiming for - and we're sorry to be crude, but there's just one way to say it - the anime MILF of the year.

Part of what stops the viewer muttering "Seen this, seen this" is the humour, which is goofy yet witty. Sometimes the joke's only funnier when anyone could have written it. Hmm, our hero, called Shu, must draw a spiritual power from the chest of a nubile girl classmate. How could that possibly go wrong? Later, there's a missile attack set to classical music, perhaps a dig at Evangelion's infamous use of Handel. There's a fair amount of cheery fanservice, especially the draughty outfit worn by the magic singing girl, but it never takes over the show. There are even some refreshing bits of empowerment. One of the most peppery girl robot pilots is a paraplegic, while the 'girl next door' character shows exactly what she thinks of Shu taking her for granted.

This show comes from big names; it was made by Production I.G and directed by Tetsuro Araki, who helmed Death Note, High School of the Dead and this year's biggie Attack on Titan. However, it might be fairer to Guilty Crown to forget all that. It's a well-made show, but never pretends to be mould-breaking. It's bright and shiny, but the images have an antiseptic, artificial sheen, and a few cost-cutting still frames are jarring. The spectacle is enjoyable enough to satisfy, but it never surprises (save for the missile bit).

Tonewise, the show moves from cheesy cliché to out-and-out comedy, before the character drama starts. As you might expect, Shu's a bit baffled by what he's told about why people fight; and the separate question of why they're really fighting; and the really crucial question for a growing boy, which is if he has a chance with the pretty singing girl. Shu cowers from the adventure a couple of times; however, his weakness is presented much less histrionically than Shinji's tantrums in Eva, while still adding interest to the story.

There are also more tragic supporting players, and a touch of effective psycho-drama in an episode about what it really means to see into a loved one's heart. The action builds to a couple of epic climaxes, and the last episode on the set seems poised to close a story arc, before a stinger twist leaves us - surprise! - on the brink of cataclysm. Well, it's been fun so far.

Playing like a slightly lowbrow pastiche of Eva meets Geass, Guilty Crown starts in cheesy and clichéd mode. It gets away with it because it's fun, with witty moments, some good character bits, slick presentation and a passable story.
SCORE: 4/5
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